A building permit is required unless the work is specifically exempted by the California Building Code and Chapter 12 of the County Code. HOWEVER, other laws, codes and ordinances may override these exemptions. (Examples of overriding considerations include, but are not limited to: required setbacks from property lines and right-of-ways; grading permit requirements; land use restrictions determined by zoning designations; Coastal Zone Review; or special environmental characteristics, such as: riparian corridors, habitats for endangered plants or animals, fault zones, etc.)
Please check with Zoning Counter (email email@example.com or schedule a phone or in person appointment here) before you ERECT, CONSTRUCT, ENLARGE ALTER, REPAIR, MOVE, IMPROVE, REMOVE, CONVERT, or DEMOLISH any building or structure. Work exempted from building permit requirements may require another type of permit or technical review and the Zoning Counter can provide you with this information.
If you meet the criteria, you may perform the following work without a building permit:
1. ACCESSORY STRUCTURES:
One-story, detached accessory buildings used as tool sheds, playhouses, and similar uses, when located on a parcel which contains an existing single-family dwelling and/or garage, provided that the FLOOR AREA DOES NOT EXCEED 120 square feet and the HEIGHT does not exceed 10 feet.
1. If more than one such structure exists on a single parcel, they both need permits unless the distance between them is greater than 10 feet.
2. When electrical, plumbing, or mechanical work in connection with unpermitted structures is done, the appropriate electrical, plumbing, or mechanical permit must be obtained, but a building permit is not required for the structure itself.
3. Such exempt structures must meet all other applicable requirements of this jurisdiction, including required minimum distances from property lines.
Fences (wood and metal) NOT OVER 8 FEET HIGH, and concrete or masonry fences NOT OVER 6 FEET HIGH.
Confirm whether any other permits or technical reviews are required by emailing Planning.ZoningInfo@santacruzcountyca.gov or scheduling an in-person counter appointment here.
3. INTERIOR WALL TREATMENTS:
Painting, papering, and similar finish work
4. RETAINING WALLS:
Retaining walls (Gargen walls) which retain no more than 3 feet of material unless supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II, or III-A liquids. Please check with a Zoning Counter planner before building a retaining wall in any yard abutting a street.
Note: For this section, a retaining wall is considered to be supporting a surcharge if:
- The wall retains more than one foot of material and the retained material slopes more than two units horizontal to one vertical within a distance equal to twice the height of the wall above the lowest grade.
- The wall retains more than one foot of material, and any road or structure is located on the retaining material within a distance equal to twice the height of the wall above the lowest grade.
- A one-story structure less than 120 square feet such as a carport, tool and storage sheds, playhouses, and similar uses do not require a re-roof permit. Any structure over 120 SF does require a permit.
6. OTHER FEATURES:
Detached residential platforms, walks, and decks not more than 200 sq. ft. in area, that are not more than 30 inches above grade at any point, are not attached to a dwelling and do not serve any egress door. Please check with a Zoning Counter planner to see if the structure must meet setbacks.
7. MOVABLE/TEMPORARY ITEMS:
Movable cases and partitions with no internal electrical wiring, not over 5 feet 9 inches high; and temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery.
8. SHADING DEVICES:
- Window Awnings: Supported by an exterior wall of a residence or residential garage which does not project more than 36 inches.
- Agricultural Shading Structures: Less than 12 feet high and constructed of light frame materials and covered with shade cloth or clear, flexible plastic with no associated electrical, plumbing, or mechanical equipment. Please check with Zoning for required setbacks from property lines or rights-of-way.
9. PREFABRICATED SWIMMING POOLS:
A pool that is less than 18 inches in depth and the capacity of the pool does not exceed 5,000 gallons.
10. PREFABRICATED STRUCTURES:
Constructed of light frame materials and covered with cloth or flexible plastic, used to shelter vehicles or boats, with no associated electrical, plumbing or mechanical equipment, where the height above grade as defined in the zoning ordinance does not exceed 12 feet, and where the size does not exceed 300 square feet. Be sure to check with a Zoning Counter planner to see if the structure must meet setbacks.
11. WATER TANKS:
Support directed upon grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2 to 1. Please check with your local fire jurisdiction for appropriate location of the tank and check with Zoning for required setbacks from property lines, or rights-of-way.
Support directed upon grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2 to 1.
Note: Please check with your local fire jurisdiction for appropriate location of the tank and check with Zoning for required setbacks from property lines, or right-of-ways.
12. PLAY STRUCTURES:
Play structures when constructed on a parcel which contains a single-family dwelling and which are not used for commercial purposes, unless the Building Official finds that the structure poses a hazard to health or safety. Please check with Zoning to determine if a development permit is required.
If your project does not appear on this list of exempt work, then a building permit is required. Contact the Building Department for additional information.